Around 16 million people in the U.S. suffer from memory impairment. That can range from mild to severe. In the past, we accepted the possibility of memory- robbing diseases like Alzheimer’s as part of growing older. If we got lucky, we didn’t get it. If not, we became part of the statistic.
Science has come a long way, and we now know that many lifestyle factors can affect our cognitive processes. For years many in the healthcare industry believed there was no working treatment or prevention. Recent studies have shown that this doesn’t always have to be the case. Below we will discuss some things we can do to prevent getting one of these terrible diseases of the brain. There is hope for people who suffer from cognitive problems. Let’s look at what happens when you develop memory issues and some things that can help if you or a loved one has had any of these in your lives.
When we think about memory problems, the two that are on the forefront are Alzheimer’s and dementia. Some people use these terms interchangeably, but dementia is a broad term that describes a severe decline in mental ability. That means it interferes with daily life.
Alzheimer’s is a common cause of dementia. It is a specific disease and not a generalization. When people begin having problems with reasoning skills or memory decline, they may get a dementia diagnosis. With dementia, brain cells have been damaged and cause problems with the brain’s ability to communicate well. (1)
Alzheimer’s is the cause in at least 60% of dementia cases. It happens when the brain degenerates and causes cell damage. The symptoms of Alzheimer’s may get overlooked at first since it can show up as slight forgetfulness. Unfortunately, the symptoms worsen over time and lead to noticeable issues like disorientation, trouble swallowing, and behavior changes.
You may think that if you have issues with brain function, they are easy to diagnose. The problem is that doctors consider some patterns that show up as normal brain aging. That means that if you do have trouble, it could get missed until it gets more severe. If you are lucky, you may have previous brain imaging studies they can compare to check for drastic changes. Otherwise, they may rely on multiple tests and interviews with family members. (2)
We also must consider memory issues when we don’t have an actual disease. Many of us have brain fog when we cannot think of certain words. That can get embarrassing and even cause problems on the job if it gets bad enough.
Some people feel tired and run down, so they reach for more coffee or energy drinks. That can rob their adrenals and send them into a worse crash later in the day. Instead of searching for ways to push through, we need to look at natural approaches that can help.
We have all heard that adage of we are what we eat. Those words may ring more factual than you think. As we learn more about the importance of a healthy diet, we cannot forget how nutrition affects the brain.
Bad dietary habits can drastically increase one’s chances of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Poor nutrition affects the brain’s synapses and neuropathological changes in the nervous system. (3) Much of that could be due to decreased vitamin and mineral consumption when we don’t eat the foods our bodies need.
A diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants can have a protective effect on our neurodegenerative processes. There have been studies that prove nutrients are beneficial to Alzheimer’s disease.
Glutathione, which has many other benefits, has been shown to help with the intervention of Alzheimer’s disease. So, how do we ramp up our body’s glutathione? One way to do that is to include sulfur-rich foods in your diet. Add foods like eggs, fish, onions, and garlic to your daily meals. You can also supplement with NAC, which prevents spatial memory deterioration. (4)
Coenzyme Q10 and B vitamins are crucial nutrients for minimizing the risks of developing Alzheimer’s. These can also help slow the progression of the disease.
We have touched on some foods you can include to get better nutrition, but many people get confused about which diet is best for your health. Some people claim keto is superior to any other way of eating, while many prioritize healthy carbs. When it comes to nutrition and cognitive issues, you want to lean into the foods that increase proper brain function. There doesn’t have to be a one size fits all approach to that.
Healthy fats like nuts and olive oil contain high levels of antioxidant compounds. They also have omega-3 fatty acids, which are crucial for protecting brain cells.
Vegetables like leafy greens are high in antioxidants. They also have folate, which decreases inflammation and improves memory function. Beets have high nitrate levels that dilate blood vessels and get more oxygen to the brain.
Complex carbs provide glucose, which brains cells use for energy. Proper carbohydrate intake can provide a steady flow of glucose to the brain. Examples of these would be things like lentils and chickpeas or even sweet potatoes. You want to avoid processed simple carbs like white bread, pastas, rice, sodas, and candy.
Fruits can be nutrient powerhouses. Berries can protect the brain from oxidative damage, which prevents premature dementia. They also contain flavonoids that improve brain function. Grapes are chock full of resveratrol, which helps to boost memory. Studies illustrate that supplementing with low doses of resveratrol can help reverse brain aging. (5) Avocados improve blood cholesterol levels because of their healthy fat content. They can also improve memory function.
Fatty fish like sardines, salmon, and mackerel contain omega-3 fatty acids. Some people find it hard to eat enough fish because they don’t like the taste. If you find yourself in that camp, try supplementing with fish oil. You should buy a quality product because many fish oil supplements are rancid and not worth the cost.
Now that we have gone over some brain-healthy foods, which diet should you follow? The answer is that there is no specific “diet” for Alzheimer’s prevention or memory problems. The diet you should follow is the one that includes brain-boosting foods. You can limit or swap out foods that don’t fit your health needs. Consuming nutrient-dense foods is a critical factor. You want a variety of foods that nourish and protect your brain. In general terms, a diet lower in carbohydrates and higher in healthy fats seems to be helpful for the prevention and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. (6) That does not mean you must forego all carbohydrates. You may need to limit the amount and make sure you skip the processed carbs. A good plan to follow would be the Heal Yourself Diet.
With all the mention of nutritional support for memory issues, you may be wondering about medication. There are drugs on the market that get prescribed for Alzheimer’s and dementia patients.
One of the drawbacks to taking these medicines is the cost. Many people cannot afford to pay for them. Some patients are on a fixed income, and these drugs can get expensive. (7)
Another problem for patients who have insurance coverage is that their insurance companies don’t always pay for the medicine. Some of the approved drugs could cost patients thousands of dollars. Most do not have the financial ability pay the high price.
Some patients and their doctors find no benefit to taking these drugs because they do not cure the problem. They may delay the progression at best.
The side effects can get more dangerous than the disease. Many patients have experienced cerebral hemorrhage and swelling. That is a risk you may not want to take.
Some of these drugs are new, and the side effects are not yet known. That can be a scary proposition when you are taking medicine every day.
When we discuss things that affect our memory, like Alzheimer’s disease, we want to focus on prevention as much as possible. Getting ahead of severe brain dysfunction is better than treating it later.
Your brain is a living organ, and it needs fuel to function well. You are not a victim of your genes. There are steps you can take now to protect your brain so you can thrive as you get older. The studies are clear that a natural approach can make a huge difference in how your brain ages and its response. When you eat a healthy diet and include the proper vitamins, you might prevent brain deterioration from ever happening to you. That is one more reason to use a natural approach first because authentic health only comes naturally.